Royal Naval Biography/Buller, Edward
SIR EDWARD BULLER,
Baronet; Vice-Admiral of the Red; and Recorder of East Looe.
The Buller family is of very ancient establishment in this country, and has chiefly resided in the counties of Devon and Cornwall, where its respective branches have been long in possession of considerable landed property. The subject of this memoir is the third son of the late John Buller, of East Looe, and Bake, co. Cornwall, Esq., by his first wife, Mary, daughter of Sir John St. Aubyn, Bart., and was born at the Admiralty, Dec. 24, 1764. He commenced his naval career at the early age of twelve years, under the auspices of the late Lord Mulgrave; was with his Lordship, on board the Courageux, in the engagement between Keppel and d’Orvilliers, July 27, 1778 and continued with him till he was promoted to a Lieutenancy, when he removed into the Sceptre, of 64 guns, then commanded by Captain Graves. The Sceptre being under orders for the East Indies, Lieutenant Buller proceeded thither, and was in most of Sir Edward Hughes’s actions with M. de Suffrein, in one of which he was slightly wounded.
In 1783, our officer, then a mere boy, was advanced to the rank of Commander, in the Chaser of 14 guns, and returned to England in that vessel soon after General Stuart’s attack upon Cuddalore, June 1783, at which he was present. We next find him in the Brisk sloop, on the Halifax station, where he displayed great activity in his endeavours to suppress smuggling. From his arrival on the coast of America to the time of his quitting it, comprising a space of six years, he was also indefatigably employed in surveying the different harbours, &c., and thereby obtained a perfect knowledge thereof. He obtained post rank in the Dido frigate, July 19, 1790, and returned to England at the latter end of the same year.
In 1792 Captain Buller was appointed to the Porcupine, of 24 guns, from which ship he removed into the Adventure, 44. In the latter, when on his return from Canada and Nova Scotia as convoy to a valuable fleet of merchantmen, he narrowly escaped being captured by a French squadron, cruizing expressly to intercept him. In this fleet were thirteen Dutch vessels, with rich cargoes, which, as soon as they quitted Captain Buller’s protection, were taken by our cruizers, in consequence of an embargo having been laid upon all Dutch property.
Our officer’s next appointment was to the Crescent frigate, in which he proceeded to the Cape of Good Hope, and was present at the capture of a Dutch squadron in Saldanha Bay, Aug. 18, 1796, On his return from that station he was nominated to the command of the Sea Fencibles, from the river Lyne to Cawsand Bay, including the whole of the southern coast of Devonshire; and by his judicious arrangements, that newly raised corps was placed on the most respectable footing.
In 1799 Captain Buller obtained the command of the Edgar, 74, and subsequently removed into l’Achille, of the same force. In these ships he was principally employed in the blockade of Brest and Rochefort until the cessation of hostilities; soon after which he was elected M.P. for East Looe, and at the same time chosen Recorder of that borough.
On the renewal of hostilities, in 1803, our officer commissioned the Malta of 84 guns, in which ship he particularly distinguished himself in the action between Sir Robert Calder and Admiral Villeneuve, July 22, 1805. On that occasion, in consequence of the fog, she separated from her companions, and was at one time assailed by five of the enemy’s vessels. Captain Buller, however, resolutely braved the danger, and continued the unequal conflict until one of his opponents, the San Rafael of 84 guns, surrendered. In this affair the Malta had 5 men killed and 40 wounded. Captain Buller soon afterwards received the honourable appointment of a Colonel of the Royal Marines; and in the ensuing year assisted at the capture of le President, French frigate. The Malta was subsequently attached to the fleet under Lord Collingwood, employed in watching the port of Cadiz.
About the month of May, 1807, our officer was obliged to return to England in consequence of a violent fever, occasioned by his exertions in affording relief to the crew of a Portugueze frigate, wrecked near Gibraltar. He was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral, April 28, 1808; and raised to the dignity of a Baronet of Great Britain, on the 3d October following. At the close of the year 1809 he succeeded the present Sir John Sutton, as second in command at Plymouth, where he continued until about the autumn of 1812, and then hoisted his flag in the Channel fleet. His advancement to the rank of Vice-Admiral took place Aug. 12, 1812, on which day he assisted at the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of that stupendous erection, the breakwater in Plymouth Sound.
Sir Edward Buller married, March 15th, 1789, Gertrude, fifth daughter of Colonel Philip Van Cortlandt.
Residence.– Trenant-Park, Wiveliscomb, co. Cornwall.
- Sir Edward’s father represented East Looe in several parliaments, held a seat at the Admiralty for many years, and was afterwards a Lord of the Treasury. He died July 25, 1786.
- See note †, at p. 195.
- See note †, at p. 20.
- See p. 50.
- In the spring of 1808, a corps of Sea Fencibles was raised, on a plan proposed to the Admiralty by Captain (afterwards Sir Home R.) Popham, to be composed of the fishermen and seamen employed in coasters, and other men employed on the water in the different harbours, rivers, and creeks along the coast. Agreeably to the regulations adopted, a Post-Captain, with a certain number of inferior officers, according to the extent of the district, were appointed to command them. The men received protections from the impress, and at each muster or exercise one shilling each, on the conditions, that, in garrisons and land batteries, they should learn to exercise the great guns; and that, where those did not exist, they should be exercised in the use of the pike, so as to be able to oppose an invading enemy, either afloat or on shore.
- On the 1st Oct. 1801, the preliminaries of peace were signed between his Britannic Majesty and the French Consular Government; and on the 27th March 1802, the definitive treaty was signed at Amiens by the plenipotentiaries of Great Britain, France, Spain, and the Bataviau republic.
- See Vice-Admiral Charles Stirling.
- See p. 31.